Woodworker’s Wish List

Shop-tested gifts guaranteed to please the woodworkers on your list

Woodworking magazine product tests are downright Darwinian. New tools and materials enjoy a few weeks in the spotlight, but once the tests are over and the reviews published, most are repacked and sent back from whence they came. Some find their way into the magazine’s workshop, but only the fittest few are special enough to make us skinflint editors shell out our own cash.

With the holidays fast approaching, I’ve asked the editors to not tell me what tools they want, but what ones they use. In response, they’ve rummaged in tool chests, cabinets, aprons, and even their desk drawers, to come up with their list of favorites.

While the gift selections will appeal to woodworkers, I’ve arranged the list to make sense to non-woodworkers as well. With the guide’s help, and an assessment of your recipient’s needs, you should find the perfect gift. As for yourself, circle the items that make you salivate, and share your selections with the gift-givers in your life. There’s truly something in this for everyone, even those who seem to have it all.

Two Ways To Measure Once

A few thousandths of an inch can make a difference between a snug and sloppy joint fit. The problem is that few of us can make out the 64ths on our rulers. Here are two solutions that fit into your apron pocket. We use both.

Can’t-miss caliper

1 Measuring cuts to the third decimal place might sound like overkill, but minor errors quickly multiply from one step to the next. Wixey’s Dual Display Caliper displays measurements in imperial decimal, fraction, and metric measurements, so that there can be no misunderstandings. (Note that a caliper is three tools in one. Separate jaws measure inside and outside dimensions, while the plunge bar works as a depth gauge.)

Building blocks

2 Fingers can detect differences as fine as a human hair (for caliper fans, that’s about .004") Kreg’s Precision Router Table Setup Bars capitalize on that innate ability. Unlike square setup blocks, the unique shape enables them to set blades and bits without needing to stack a bunch of smaller blocks.

Making the Cut

It might seem that woodworking is little more than cutting big boards into small ones. Ask the woodworker, and you’ll discover that how you make those cuts makes all the difference. These tools can help.

Progressive pair

3 and 4 Hand-cut joinery (dovetails, tenons, etc.) starts with the ability to saw a straight line. While some say that only a bad workman blames his tools, skill will only take you so far. Enter Pax’s Progressive Tooth Crosscut and Ripsaws. These saws are a little pricey, but you don’t need to buy both at once. Most woodworkers will want to start with a ripsaw to cut tenon cheeks and dovetails. In time, most add a crosscut saw for cutting across the grain, as when sawing tenon shoulders. Both saws feature graduated teeth; smaller teeth at the tip start the cut, while the larger teeth finish the cut in fewer strokes.

Thin-kerf king

5 To woodworkers, installing a new saw blade is as sweet as donning a fresh pair of sneakers, but in this case, one size is guaranteed to fit all saws. Freud’s Premier Fusion Thin-kerf Blade translates into a little more power when using benchtop and contractor saws, but cabinet saw users will also appreciate seeing less of their stock turned into sawdust. The blade’s unique tooth geometry, a blend of alternating top-bevel, double-side grind, and a positive side-hook angle, combine to make an all-purpose blade that can rip hardwoods and plywoods quickly with no chipping and crosscut hardwood with crisp, smooth edges.

No-set solution

6 The name just about says it all. Woodworkers of all stripes and skill levels will find a place for a Kugihiki Flush-cut Saw. The flexible problem-solver trims pegs, dowels, and tenons without scratching surrounding surfaces.

Smooth Operators

Hand planes can help a stubborn tenon slip into a mortise, remove mill marks, chamfer edges, and much more without you ever walking away from the workbench. Here are a few of this year’s top problem-solvers.

Starting blocks

7 and 8 WoodRiver’s Adjustable Mouth Block Planes offer a nice blend of new and old, starting with a knuckle-jointed lever cap that’s reminiscent of the cap used on block planes more than a half-century ago. The comfortable spoon-shaped cap snaps onto the blade without knocking it out of alignment. A few details make them better than the originals: thicker blades, tougher castings, and a price that’s less than the collectibles. Woodworkers and carpenters alike will want to stash one in their aprons or toolboxes. (Diehards will want both the standard and low-angle versions, but beginners may want to start with the low-angle plane. The 12° bed angle makes this tool better suited for slicing end grain.)

Tenon tamers

9 and 10 Much more versatile than its name suggests, a shoulder plane fine-tunes not only tenon shoulders, but also tenon cheeks, dadoes, rabbets, and any surface where you need to plane into a corner. Hock’s Shoulder Plane Kit offers an opportunity to spend a nice weekend in the shop with the reward of a top-shelf tool. For a few dollars more, Stanley’s Sweetheart Shoulder Chisel Plane comes ready for work. Unlike the wooden-bodied plane, you can remove the Stanley’s front section to work the blade into blind corners.

Super steel

11 Woodworkers who own a parking lot of hand planes are bound to have at least one tool in need of an upgrade. Pinnacle/IBC’s Matched Chipbreaker and Blade Set can convert a tired tool into a top performer. The super-thick blade makes for less chatter and smoother cuts, and the cryogenically-treated A2 steel means more time planing between sharpenings. (Replacement blades are also available for spokeshaves and block planes.)

Masters of Assembly

There’s more to woodworking than dovetails, tenons, and mortises. Screws are used for holding tops, securing shelves, assembling cases, and constructing jigs. Outside of the workshop, screws are used for all sorts of projects. Woodworkers and weekend warriors alike will find plenty of good uses for a fresh set of drivers.

Dynamic driving duo

12 Don’t think you need another cordless drill? Think again. To keep up with today’s fastening technology (and to save time), you’ll want two, like Porter-Cable’s 12V Drill and Impact Driver Set. For assembly, nothing’s faster than drilling holes with one tool and driving screws with another. The pair’s compact size makes them capable of reaching into where larger cordless tools won’t fit, and the lithium-ion batteries pack plenty of juice. The driver’s impact mechanism provides enough torque to power 3"-long screws into softwood without a pilot hole, and without stripping the screw’s head.

No-slip tips

13 Since switching out my old drivers for the WERA 6-Piece Set, I haven’t slipped or stripped a screw head yet. The laser-etched tips on the Phillips and standard drivers grip the screw’s head as soon as you apply the slightest bit of torque; it feels as if the screw is stuck to the driver. Beyond the tips, the tools boast ergonomic handles that allow a firm grip without tiring your hands. Tip-identification symbols on the handles make it easy to find the right driver in a wink.

Fast Finishers

Finishing supplies might seem to hold the allure of a new necktie, but many woodworkers would be delighted to receive these gifts that will help put a shine to their work. In addition to a few stocking stuffers, we found items to consider if your woodworker has been really good this year.

Easy applicators

14 and 15 For small to medium-sized projects, most woodworkers rely on wipe- and brush-on finishes. We aren’t above tearing up an old T-shirt, but almost anyone would appreciate a fresh pack of disposable brushes or an applicator pad 10-pack.

Spray systems

16 and 17 Water-based finishes dry clear and clean up easily, but they dry so quickly that it’s difficult to finish large surfaces without leaving brush strokes. Spraying is the solution. High Volume Low Pressure (HVLP) guns apply finish onto the work fast, with little overspray, and the guns are easier to clean than a good brush. If your woodworker owns a mid-sized compressor the WoodRiver Pro HVLP Spray Gun is the least expensive way to start spraying. No compressor? Step up to the Earlex Spray Station 5000. Armed with a professional gun, this home-shop sized station holds its own with pricier professional models.

For the One Who Has It All 

Show me a woodworker with a shop full of tools, and I’ll show you a person who’s engaged in a never-ending crusade against rust. These items can offer a fighting chance.

Rust busters

18, 19, and 20 If rust has a toehold, Sandflex Blocks can help undo the damage with just a little elbow grease.

The silicon-carbide erasers are great for cleaning off rust, corrosion, scratches, and stains from all metal surfaces. Zerust Corrosion Inhibitors keep rust at bay by releasing a chemical that shields metals from corrosion. 

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